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To have walked past this woman without doing anything?

(57 Posts)
LiegeAndLief Sat 02-Nov-13 22:39:49

I really think I might have been, but I don't know what I should have done.

Was walking down a pedestrianised shopping street today and there was a lady at the far end with a toddler in pushchair and a child about 5 or 6 ish having an absolute meltdown, shouting at her and repeatedly thwacking her really hard. There were a good 10 people on the street and every one of them hd stopped dead to stare at the poor woman. I was the only person moving on the street! Lots of tutting and whispering going on.

I really wanted to tell all the staring people they were bastards, but I'm a bit timid and I didn't know what to say. I really wanted to offer some support to the mum and tell her all the staring people were bastards, but I didn't know how. I thought about asking her if I could do anything to help, but I was worried that would sound like I thought she wasn't coping and she would be offended. So I just walked past. And have felt awful about it ever since.

What is the right thing to do in this situation?

suebfg Sat 02-Nov-13 22:44:53

I would probably have asked the lady if she was OK or made some other comment in support.

janey68 Sat 02-Nov-13 22:48:03

I don't think telling her the people who were looking at her are bastards would have made her feel any better, frankly.
It sounds pretty awful that the child was physically hitting her like that, but I dont really know what you could have done to help the situation. A child who is behaving in such an extreme way ( whether they have SN or not ) is unlikely to respond any better to a stranger, and I'm not sure the mother would have felt any better to have someone intervene either

DontSweatTheSmallStuff Sat 02-Nov-13 22:48:14

It's a difficult one.

Some people would really appreciate you stopping to offer help, some wouldn't and might tell you to f off and mind your own business.

Personally I would be really grateful if someone stopped to offer help and give the starers and the cat's bum face woman in Clarks when ds1 melted down over new shoes a mouthful.

If it ever happens again you could offer help which may be gratefully recieved and if it isn't then at least you know you tried. smile

Finola1step Sat 02-Nov-13 22:48:21

Poor woman. I think I would have given the starers my very own death stare. Not sure if you could have done much for the mum though.

paperdress Sat 02-Nov-13 22:49:17

Ermmm...im sorry to say that i think YWBU, yes.
When kids have a public meltdown its always so nice to know that some of the observers are sympathetic and not judging you. I wouldnt have offered her help necessarily but just said something to indicate that you recognised the shitness of her situation and that she has a comrade in the field!
(But it sounds like you're kicking yourself cause you know this anyway...!)

headinhands Italy Sat 02-Nov-13 22:50:51

I know what you mean op. Maybe when in this situation we could start with a 'it's not that I think you need any help but I was wondering if there was anything I could do' or something? Sounds a bit long winded though doesn't it.

CrapBag Sat 02-Nov-13 22:51:02

I wouldn't have said anything, what can you really do to help. But I would have felt bad like you, you feel like you want to offer some sympathy but not everyone will take it well.

I have witnessed something similar, a woman and child walking in the street recently, he was shouting and really thumping and headbutting her, but he was older, about 9-10 I would say. Clearly he had SN. I just walked on and tried to ignore it. I'm sure they don't need people stopping and staring.

EweHaveGoatToBeKiddin Sat 02-Nov-13 22:51:15

I've been the mum in this situation.

The absolute worst thing is when you get strangers interfering by addressing 5yo dd with comments like, "Don't do that or the policeman will come." "Don't do that to your mummy or she'll not cook you dinner." "Be a big girl now, come on."

The second worst thing is people stopping, staring, hissing, whispering ...

TBH i've never had any other reaction apart from these two.

In an ideal world, I suppose I'd like someone to address me - not dd - and ask me quietly if I was okay and if there's anything they could do to help. I'd likely just assure them I was fine and kindly refuse their help, but that comment alone would make me feel a bit better.

The second best thing would be for people just to walk on by and ignore the whole situation.

You did fine, IMO. smile

LiegeAndLief Sat 02-Nov-13 22:52:53

Yeah Janey I guess that's the conclusion I came to which is why I didn't do anything.

She must have bee aware that lots of people were staring disapprovingly - I just wanted her to know that at least one person was feeling sympathetic and angry on her behalf!

I don't think it really matters whether the child had SN or not, although it did look like a pretty extreme meltdown for an NT child of that age.it was still really shitty of the bystanders. I've seen plenty of tantrums in supermarkets etc (some of them by my own dc!) but never such blatant staring.

DontSweatTheSmallStuff Sat 02-Nov-13 22:53:28

Probably the best help in this sort of situation would be to look after/entertain the toddler in some way while mum dealt with the meltdown.

Agree that calling them bastards probably wouldn't help but you could suggest they either help or mind their own business and get lost

SeaSickSal Sat 02-Nov-13 22:53:54

Um, you were looking too. Unless you are a mind reader how do you know they were not thinking the same thing.

Most parents deal with this kind of melt down at some point. We deal with it.

I would find someone interfering and assuming I couldn't deal with my own child far more offensive.

If you meet their eye smile and look sympathetic, but don't interfere.

ZangelbertBingeldac Sat 02-Nov-13 22:54:16

I think you took the path of least offence, which is perfectly ok.

My three year old can be very difficult to take out <understatement> and although she doesn't hit she runs away/screams/tantrums very visibly in front of other people.

I'm used to it, I can deal with it. I don't seek eye contact with anyone else when it happens so tutting and cats bum faces would go over my head.

I HAVE had a couple of 'helpful' people attempt to intervene at times, and frankly, it doesn't help because my 3 year old burns herself out very quickly and then aquiesces (sp?) and then we get on with our day. So people busying over with that whole kind of 'can I help???' kind of thing does annoy me and I wish they'd stay out of it, tbh.

AmeliaToppingLovesShopping Sat 02-Nov-13 22:59:25

A few months ago my DD2, nearly 5, had a huge meltdown at the checkout in Lidl. She was screaming and I think hitting me, though not hard enough to hurt. I heard a man at the till comment on how it was hurting his ears. I was so stressed that I actually started to cry as I tried to pack my shopping.

A lovely older couple came over and spoke to all 3 of the DDs and it did really help. I was able to pack and DD2 calmed down. I was so thankful to them as they were completely non-judgemental and when I kept saying thank you they said they had it with their DC and are now getting it with their DGC.

I'm not sure what I would do if I saw someone in the same situation but hope I would help, it is difficult though so don't beat yourself up about it.

LiegeAndLief Sat 02-Nov-13 23:00:25

Honestly SeaSick it was not the same thing! I could see her because she was in my line of vision and I had to walk right past her. The rest of the people in the street had stopped to look and I could hear what they were saying as I walked past them.

If it hadn't been for the staring people, actually, I wouldn't have thought to say anything to her. I'm sure she knew her child and would manage just fine. I was just horrified by how rude they were and wanted to offer some kind of support.

wamabama Sun 03-Nov-13 07:32:28

I think you handled it best. It's a tough one because it's difficult to know when parents would appreciate you helping or not. Some parents would want you to fuck off and leave them to it and others would be really grateful.

What is not helpful, ever, is the people who tut, stare or make snidey comments. I don't see what runs through their minds to do it tbh, it's not remotely helpful. We've had a mixed bag of people reacting to our DC having tantrums. Some people (pretty much always old people) will come over and smile and tell us how their DC were like that or how awful it is when they do it and you feel helpless or they will try and talk to the DC to get them to calm down etc. I think it's lovely. Others will just smile as they walk by which is also nice, just to let you know they're not judging really and sympathise. Then you get others who tut, stare or mutter under their breath. Some even pull horrible faces and complain how it's hurting their ears. What makes them think that is in any way going to be helpful? It just adds to your stress tenfold.

I think you did ok especially by not joining in with the starers. I'm sure she thought more about and was irritated with them rather than you.

ZombieMojaveWonderer Sun 03-Nov-13 08:43:48

My daughter with ASD often has meltdowns and the worst thing people can do is stop and stare and make rude comments about my daughter being naughty. I think just walking past and ignoring was the best thing tbh op because drawing attention to whats happening can actually just make it worse for the poor parent.

waikikamookau Sun 03-Nov-13 08:49:22

an old lady gave my dd a real telling off when she was misbehaving, and i was grateful tbh, it did the trick grin

waikikamookau Sun 03-Nov-13 08:51:52

The absolute worst thing is when you get strangers interfering by addressing 5yo dd with comments like, "Don't do that or the policeman will come." "Don't do that to your mummy or she'll not cook you dinner." "Be a big girl now, come on."

i wouldnt find that annoying at all. it is an outside distraction

MadeOfStarDust Sun 03-Nov-13 08:56:18

I would look like I was staring .... sorry -

I have severe anxiety issues myself and witnessing a confrontation like that would put me in full "rabbit in the headlights mode"... I know I have nothing to worry about, I know it is a child, some adults have "issues" too......

EweHaveGoatToBeKiddin Sun 03-Nov-13 09:42:10

i wouldnt find that annoying at all. it is an outside distraction

These types of comments, or even a stranger talking to dd about anything, while she's having a meltdown have no positive effect on her at all. She doesn't take in their words. She just sees a stranger being in her face, and her personal space being invaded. This makes her even more stressed and likely to lash out at me.

gemmal88 Sun 03-Nov-13 10:40:33

I like it when a fellow parent gives me a smile as if "I'm glad it's not me this time" when my daughter is freaking out.

I'd be pissed off if someone tried to intervene. When my daughter was a tiny tot we were waiting to go on a delayed flight she was hungry and kicking off. I wanted to wait until we were in seats before breast feeding as I was really unconfident first time round. Some old bint came over giving it "awww she must be hungry" and proceeded to put her finger in my baby's mouth. I swiped her hand away - how grim!

As for the starers - they can fuck off, as if their kids are angels!

Coconutty Costa Rica Sun 03-Nov-13 10:45:37

I sometimes walk past and say, "Been there, done that. It does get better"

spongebob13 Sun 03-Nov-13 10:46:47

maybe she wasn't to be pitied or made feel better. she was obviously in control (if I saw the mum having a melt down might be different) and probably waiting to deal with it when she got home or to the car. for eg cant execute a naughty step on a street. maybe she didn't notice the stares I wouldn't. id be so in "your not getting your way" mode I would be stoney face. she sounded like she was handling it herself.

now if the mum herself was distressed looking I might say something of support.

LimitedEditionLady Sun 03-Nov-13 20:34:46

When we were on holiday we went to a restaurant for dinner and ds wasnt used to the situation so spent a long time screaking and dragging my arm as he wanted to go.i thought id never eat my food and it was embarassing in a quiet place.An older couple started talking to him and he instantly calmed down and sat with them just near us.It was such a relief and such a kind thing to do and such a novelty for someone to do that for a stranger.

amothersplaceisinthewrong Sun 03-Nov-13 20:37:18

My Mother would have marched up and told the kid to stop hitting the mother!

NK5BM3 Sun 03-Nov-13 21:01:07

Well.. In my case,,the policemen did come...! confused We were in a big major train station and DS who was 3 or 4 decided that he'd run off. I had dd in my arms and couldn't run fast enough. Dh had gone off to get food. 2 London police officers saw me shout after him and try to chase after him, he didn't stop. So they gave chase.

In hindsight it was funny. I was mortified. They gave him a 'telling off' (age appropriate). He has never run off ever again. And he still remembers a couple of years on.

I think you did ok. I wouldn't mind an intervention but it depends on how the intervention is done. In a sympathetic way is fine. In a 'well I would do xxx' would just get a 'fuck off' from me!

Blondeorbrunette Sun 03-Nov-13 21:28:21

I think it says a lot abt you as a person that your still thinking about this lady smile

SunshineMMum Sun 03-Nov-13 22:47:56

Hi I have a DS who has autism, I'd have totally appreciated your sympathetic silence TBH. Don't worry you did the right thing.

Mimishimi Sun 03-Nov-13 22:55:31

I would have told the child off with a short "Hey, you respect your mother " or some such. Someone did that for me once when DD was behaving similarly and it stopped immediately - I was really grateful to the guy. Telling the people off for staring would make her feel more embarrassed I think.

KathrynKampbell Sun 03-Nov-13 23:07:31

I would have walked by and ignored. I wouldn't intrude by trying to discipline the child (so rude) and I wouldn't ask if she was okay because it would affect my day if she was offended and told me to fuck off or something. I'd hope she would take my not staring as polite rather than rude.

MrsMook Sun 03-Nov-13 23:09:57

I've been helped with DS tantruming. I was 38wks pg and on crutches. Waiting for him to burn out (my only option) was taking a long time. An oldish couple came up asked if I wanted him picking up and they took him over to the car ride to distract him. It calmed him down so that he could walk back to the car on his own steam 5 mins later. I was very grateful!

I've had a lot of "been there" type smiles and I tend to do the same. Generally people know how best to deal with their child and not need external help.

This sounds like me 3 weeks ago!!
You were not unreasonable to walk past, it's a shame others don't do the same imo, instead of staring, tutting and sometimes even sarky comments.

I applaud you for doing the right thing, anything else would make you a nosey parkersmile

Fwiw people getting involved nicely or otherwise doesn't help the situation as the child feeds of the attention.

McAvity Sun 03-Nov-13 23:17:52

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

Correct me if I am wrong, a group of parents of children with SN from Mumsnet were trying to raise awareness of exactly this type of situation and put forward the above as a suggested positive reaction recently?

I always worry my sympathetic look comes across as me looking and smirking. It seems that people like others to react in different ways, hard to know what to do

MindyWiller Sun 03-Nov-13 23:25:12

i think you did the right thing OP. my son has had some major public meltdowns ( though has never hit me) and as much as i hated being stared at i wanted to punch people who tried to step in and "help". i sae it as interfering and it always seemed to make things worse.

TaraFey Sun 03-Nov-13 23:59:04

I think you probably did the right thing, from my experience as the mum in a similar position once.

When my daughter was around 4/5 we were travelling home by train (it had already been a stressful weekend as I'd been forced to take her over to my Grandmothers who was at the time in early/mid-stage alzeimers after an incident and we were both tired and frazzled by this point) Anyhow, the train was empty when we got on and I nabbed us a window seat with a table. Then half an hour into the 1hr45 min journey, the train filled to bursting. She didn't want to sit on my knee so I had to try and force her so someone could sit down. It was very squashed, and she lost it. She hit, bit, pulled my hair and screamed the entire way, while everyone crammed in the aisles and in the seats around us stared, tutted and huffed. I was so traumatised by the whole weekend I sat silently crying and let her continue to wack me. I didn't know what else I could do right at that moment, squished into a corner with her jammed between me and the table.

One lady tried talking to her, offered her sweets, made 'we've all been there' comments very publicly and I felt it drew more attention. I'd rather have been ignored. My daughter is usually really placid, well behaved and had very few tantrums apart from this one huge one, so I really struggled not to scream at the whole train for their judgy stares.

I like the discreet 'can I help' suggestion if possible. I do also agree it speaks volumes on you as a person for still thinking about the lady!

ThisIsMummyPig Mon 04-Nov-13 00:09:50

I have to say I have offered to help a good half dozen times. Often in supermarkets, and often actually when I've had my own DD with me (so I don't look like a child snatcher).

Nobody has ever accepted any help. They have never been rude, but a couple (of Dad's thinking about it) have clearly thought I had judged them and found them to be inadequate.

I would still offer again, but as others have said, the parents tend to want to ride it out themselves.

McAvity Mon 04-Nov-13 10:02:58
SunshineMMum Mon 04-Nov-13 11:51:39

MCavity I can only speak for my child, but he would become more distressed if a stranger were involved. I often thing he is in a kind of bubble when he blows and the strategies we have learned have taken years. I'd also worry that the other person may get hurt and he can kick and flail. I really appreciate what you are saying though.

SunshineMMum Mon 04-Nov-13 11:52:17

OOps meant last post for this is mummy pig

kinkyfuckery Mon 04-Nov-13 11:55:17

YWNBU to walk past.

Had it been me, I'd have tried to survey what the mother's plan of action was. In this situation, I often find it easier to make sure we are out of the way of anyone else getting hurt and just try to minimise damage and let DD get the frustration out. It's often the only to do when she's in 'the zone'.

I'd have appreciated being handed a takeaway coffee wink

Theas18 Mon 04-Nov-13 11:56:17

To all the parents of "melty" toddlers or older SN kids would it help if a middle aged old biddy like me smiled at you and said " how can I help" or would that be the end?

I try to smile encouragingly at mums but am reluctant to "step in" in case it's taken wrongly but would willingly entertain another child/pack shopping/hold the buggy so they can't kick it over etc

Greensleeves Mon 04-Nov-13 11:57:31

I usually smile and say something like "count to ten!" or "god it's hard work isn't it"

but I probably come across as a tosser

what I would really like to do is squeeze the poor woman's hand and say "it gets better, you're doing fine" but then I would sound like a fucking Cow&Gate commercial

I don't know what the right thing to do is

ZangelbertBingeldac Mon 04-Nov-13 12:52:37

Theas18 and Greensleeves, I'd find you approach a bit patronising, if I'm brutally honest.

I obviously can't speak for anyone else - but I wouldn't appreciate it. If I'm having a bit of a tricky day I don't necessarily need anyone to jump in and highlight it for me.

I especially wouldn't appreciate "you're doing fine" - like I've issued some kind of open invitation to rate my parenting.

But then I'm a grumpy fucker when it comes to busybodies, however well intentioned grin

Greensleeves Mon 04-Nov-13 12:54:58

well that's why I don't say it! I said I would WANT to say something like that. I know it sounds dreadful.

I would like to find a way of transmitting a bit of a boost to someone in a shitty situation without being patronising or irritating. But I haven't found it.

Idespair Mon 04-Nov-13 12:57:23

I think it was the right thing to do, just to walk past. The toddler was safe because he/she was restrained in the buggy. Provided the mum looked physically able to deal with the older child, there was nothing anyone could do.

Different matter if toddler wandering whilst older child tantrumed. In that case, could offer to hold toddler's hand so doesn't wander off.

PukingCat Mon 04-Nov-13 13:00:10

NK5BM3 ha ha at chased by a policeman! grin

ZangelbertBingeldac Mon 04-Nov-13 13:04:44

Sorry, greensleeves and Theas - the tone of my post was really narky and really wasn't directed at you, I think I was just projecting about past experiences! Apologies smile

Greensleeves Mon 04-Nov-13 13:10:40

not at all, you did say you were being brutally honest grin and I agree with you that it sounds horribly condescending. Just wish there was a way of giving somebody a metaphorical hand-squeeze without coming across as a nosey old trout!

mydadsdaughter Mon 04-Nov-13 13:19:41

My DS was a nightmare for tantruming, he would bite, kick ,hit and shout and scream usually somewhere VERY public and I used to get all sorts of comments aimed at me, my favourite being " he's got behavioural problems" angry so unless you were a friend ( we lived in a very small town, so most people know each other ) I would not have appreciated any comment however helpful you were trying to be so you were not being unreasonable.

MindyWiller Mon 04-Nov-13 14:45:32

Theas and Greensleeves- i actually wouldn't mind someone giving me a little encouraging comment, it's when people start trying to cajole and bribe my son out of his tantrum i get pissed off.

my strategy has always been to ignore his screaming and demanding- he acts up for attention so giving in is the worst thing i can do. i just sit on a bench or stand and wait it out- for some reason this seems to attract brainless busy bodies random people and they start talking to him/offerring sweets if he is good etc.

but a wee "you're doing fine" would make me feel a little better actually.

everlong Mon 04-Nov-13 14:54:33

Calling them bastards is a bit extreme and silly.

You didn't help either.

How do you know what all of those people were thinking? You don't.

People might have thought ' look at her waltzing passed not bothered '

Those situations are horrible for everyone especially the poor mum.

Jenny70 Mon 04-Nov-13 14:56:03

I usually make a comment, like "it's usually mine doing this type of thing in public" or "at least your day can only get better from here" - something supportive to the mum, but not sounding judgemental, more like "this is ususally me in your shoes, it happens to all of us!" type of thing.

Said it once to a youngish looking mum and she nearly cried, she said she thought it was only her child to tantrum in public, I reassured her my 5yr old (then) was more than capable of screaming in shops, in the street, in park or anywhere! But laughed and said I am always pleased when it's not mine causing a scene, but I have been there many, many times before.

bababababoom Mon 04-Nov-13 15:34:18

I would want people to just walk on and leave me to deal with it. Any interaction is just distracting me from dealing with my child and giving my child attention for behaving badly.

StepAwayFromTheEcclesCakes Mon 04-Nov-13 16:05:52

I usually try and catch their eye and say 'is there anything I can do to help or you happier dealing with it on your own?' then offer the help asked for or if not retreat with a sympathetic smile and a 'we've all been there in some shape or form, even most of THEM STARING' ... usually works smile

Jinty64 Mon 04-Nov-13 17:48:45

Ds3 (7) had a huge meltdown in town at the weekend. He has ADHD as does ds1 (18) so I have been there before. It is really rare for him to have such a meltdown but he hasn't adjusted to the hour change yet and I had taken longer than I meant to so he was tired and hungry. I took a couple of minutes to see if I could talk him round, realised it wasn't going to happen and decided to make for the car.

I wasn't aware of anyone standing watching but I did get a few sympathetic smiles and a kind lady held the car park door open so that I could propel him through. I wouldn't mind anyone asking if they could do anything to help although there was nothing anyone could do but, I'm afraid remarks like "respect your mother" or "the policeman will come" would not be welcome and may bring out the worse in me.

One thing I have noticed though, and perhaps it's just chance, is that when ds1 was little and used to tantrum I was often subjected to remarks about "needing a good smack" or "taking a hand off his bottom". That doesn't seem to happen these days.

So in my opinion YWNBU and you did the right thing.

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